Scientists suggest life on Earth may have been carried here in streams of space dust

Scientists have suggested life on our planet might have originated from biological particles brought to Earth in streams of space dust.

In a paper published in Astrobiology,  scientists at the University of Edinburgh suggested that fast-moving flows of interplanetary dust delivered tiny organisms from far-off worlds.

“The proposition that space dust collisions could propel organisms over enormous distances between planets raises some exciting prospects of how life and the atmospheres of planets originated,” said professor Arjun Berera of the University of Edinburgh’s School of Physics and Astronomy.

“The streaming of fast space dust is found throughout planetary systems and could be a common factor in proliferating life.”

An adult tardigrade. Image courtesy of Bob Goldstein & Vicky Madden, UNC Chapel Hill

In the study the scientists also considered how Earth-based organisms could travel to other planets.

The scientists calculated how powerful flows of space dust – which can move at up to 43.75 miles per second (70km/s) – could collide with particles in our atmospheric system.

Small particles existing at 150km or higher above Earth’s surface could then be knocked beyond the limit of Earth’s gravity by fast-moving space dust and eventually reach other planets.

Some bacteria, plants and small animals called tardigrades are known to be able to survive in space, so it is possible that such organisms – if present in Earth’s upper atmosphere – might collide with space dust and withstand a journey to another planet.

The scientists theory, called Panspermia, was first proposed in 1871, and has since been gaining traction among the scientific community, as astronomers have discovered just how full the universe is with organic compounds.

The Panspermia theory suggests that Mars once had the right conditions for life to form, including water and an atmosphere.

Astronomer and director of the multidisciplinary Columbia Astrobiology Centre at Columbia University, Caleb Scharf, told Business Insider: “We can find pieces of Mars here on Earth and we suspect that there are pieces of Earth on Mars.

“If that material can carry living organisms on it, it’s possible that we are Martian.”

The European Space Agency is searching for a doctor to test how humans handle extreme environments

The European Space Agency (ESA) is searching for doctors who want to be part of humanity’s shift to a multi-planet species.

The agency posted a job specification online as it’s looking to send a lucky recruit with a medical degree – who also isn’t afraid of the dark or cold – to Antarctica for over six months, so they can conduct research in preparation for missions to the Moon and Mars.

“Each year we ask for applications from any of the 22 ESA member states,” said the ESA’s Jennifer Ngo-Anh.

“The experiments they run for us offer great insights into how astronauts will behave on long missions, and the stay in Antarctica is an adventure of a lifetime.”

Images courtesy of ESA

The ESA’s recruit will be sent to the agency’s Italian–French Concordia research station, which sits on an Antarctic plateau 3200m above sea level.

Its unique location and extreme conditions are designed to resemble aspects of living on another planet. So, for example, because the station is so far south the Sun does not rise above the horizon in the winter for four months, there is reduced oxygen in the air and temperatures outside can drop to –80°C.

However, the station’s new doctor will not be alone in the harsh setting as up to 15 people spend the winter in Antarctica each year, keeping the station running, with scientists working on glaciology, astronomy and climate studies.

It will be the responsibility of the ESA’s new doctor to research how humans adapt to living so far from home.

The new doctor will be expected to conduct experiments including observing the crew’s morale, tracking their skills over time and monitoring how their bodies cope with the change of rhythm and closed environment.

Much like astronauts in space, emergencies need to be handled by the station’s crew because there are no deliveries to the station for six months, leaving the Concordia crew in isolation.

If you feel up to the challenge you can find more information about the role here.